Baby Driver is a stylized crime movie about a youth prodigy getaway driver (young Ansel Elgort as “Baby”) who drives for the top armed robbers in Atlanta (Kevin Spacey is the criminal mastermind and Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm star as the triggermen). For sentimental reasons much like those of Chris Pratt’s space pirate in Guardians of the Galaxy, he insists on committing complicated crimes to the beat of his personal soundtrack of driving songs like “Radar Love.”
Baby Driver is a more high energy version of Drive, the artsy 2011 thriller with Ryan Gosling as an ace driver. Drive started with a memorable low-speed chase scene, while Baby Driver kicks off more conventionally with the hero roaring around Atlanta (which in Baby Driver appears to largely consist of parking garages) in one of those 305 horsepower Subaru WRXs.
Baby Driver is the first movie by entertaining English director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim) that looks like it has a chance to break $100 million in the U.S.
Ever since Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 movie Breathless, European filmmakers have envisioned the essence of American movie glamor to be the Crime Couple, romantic outlaws on the run in a high powered car. American directors responded with their own variants of this European homage to American movies, such as Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, Terrence Malick’s Badlands, and Jim McBride’s 1983 American remake of Breathless with Richard Gere as a rockabilly Belmondo.
In Wright’s Baby Driver, Elgort and Lily James as that arch-American archetype, the diner waitress, make a good looking duo.
This is one of the more interesting movies of what has been a weak year, although I hoped to love the film more than I quite did.
Perhaps there isn’t that much really new that can be done with car chases after all these years. Although the phrase “cut to the chase” goes back to the silent era, the modern era of car chases stems from Peter Yates’ Bullitt for Steve McQueen in 1968. But that was almost a half century ago.